23 March ~ He was once hailed as Brazil's successor to Ronaldo, but Adriano is now 30, without a club, battling obesity and tarnished as a rogue with an unprofessional thirst for alcohol. Those familiar with the decline towards the end of Ronaldo's career may note the obvious parallels with Adriano, but the contrasts remains stark. Upon his retirement last year, Ronaldo had won a World Cup (he was a non-playing squad member in 1994) and was a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year. Adriano holds the unenviable record of winning three Bidone d'Oros, Serie A's award for the worst player of the season. That being said, he is in good company; Rivaldo and Christian Vieri are also winners.
A succession of reputable managers – José Mourinho and Roberto Mancini among them – have tried, and failed, to inspire the promising form he showed from 2002 to 2006, a period in which he scored 83 goals. Football may be a sport that lends itself to hyperbole, but the comparisons between Adriano and Ronaldo were not unreasonable. Several Argentinians, Carlos Marinelli among them, may have been wrongly called Diego Maradona's successor but Adriano had genuine world-class promise.
The upward curve his career was experiencing at both Parma and Inter came to an abrupt halt in 2006 following the premature death of his father, Almir Ribeiro. Brazil were favourites at that summer's World Cup but Adriano was average. He is far from alone in underwhelming when the stage was set for impressing, but he has never recovered.
In the years since, Adriano, nicknamed "the Emperor", has journeyed back and forth between Brazil and Italy. Battles with his weight, depression and a lack of desire have caused his reputation and international career to plummet. At one point, in 2009, he even had to deny rumours of his death. His penchant for nightlife was understandably unpopular with managers and, though some ignore players' vices if the returns justify doing so, Adriano remained listless.
The striker's last club was Corinthians, where he made just eight appearances in a year. Such was their frustration and lack of trust in him, Adriano was placed under "house arrest" in an attempt to force him to lose weight. He was released from his contract within a matter of weeks. The words of Corinthians' sporting director, Roberto de Andrade, were telling: "We did everything in our power to make him fit again. We came to the conclusion it was best to terminate the contract and he agreed." Adriano "agreed".
In a career that promised so much, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. A denouement may remain in the Emperor's tale, but it will almost certainly be another disappointment. The heights of the past are well and truly gone. Declan Warrington